Note from the editor: Thank you all for your prayers for me and my family as we said goodbye to our 96 year old mother last week. We are sad, relieved, and rejoicing for her.
Peter Hessler’s World of Words (August 19, 2023, Sixth Tone)
Yet Hessler continues to believe in the importance of nonfiction as a window into the wider world. This spring, he sat down with Sixth Tone for a wide-ranging email interview covering his experiences teaching two very different generations of Chinese, the importance of people-to-people exchanges, and his approach to writing.
ChinaSource Connect Event
We are excited to invite you to attend the first in-person ChinaSource Connect event since early 2020. We will gather at the Mandarin Baptist Church of Los Angeles, CA in Alhambra on Thursday evening, August 31 to connect with old and new friends and hear updates on what is happening in China. We will look back with gratitude at what God has been doing in China and at the resilience of Chinese believers and foreign workers in a time of uncertainty. We will also look forward with anticipation at new opportunities to see God at work. The evening will begin with a light supper and time for fellowship from 6 to 7 p.m., followed by the program from 7 to 8:30 pm. If you are in the area, please join us.
Go here to register.
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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs
China sends dozens of warplanes near Taiwan after vice-president’s US stopover (August 19, 2023, The Guardian)
China launched military drills around Taiwan on Saturday as a “stern warning” after voicing anger over a stopover in the United States by the island’s vice-president, William Lai. Lai – the frontrunner in Taiwan’s presidential election next year and a vocal opponent of Beijing’s claims to the island – returned on Friday from a trip to Paraguay during which he stopped briefly in New York and San Francisco.
In Tanzania, Beijing is running a training school for authoritarianism (August 20, 2023, Axios)
The school’s programs present strong evidence that Beijing is exporting its model in a clear departure from its previous, more subtle attempts to peddle influence.
China’s 40-Year Boom Is Over. What Comes Next? (August 20, 2023, The Wall Street Journal) (subscription required)
For decades, China powered its economy by investing in factories, skyscrapers and roads. The model sparked an extraordinary period of growth that lifted China out of poverty and turned it into a global giant whose export prowess washed across the globe. Now the model is broken.
China’s Homegrown Crisis (August 21, 2023, Council on Foreign Relations)
With China’s economy stumbling, its leaders must choose among staying the course, changing course, or changing the conversation by turning to nationalism and external aggression. The West should seek to persuade China’s rulers that the latter course would be folly.
Xi’s Age of Stagnation: The Great Walling-Off of China (August 22, 2023, Foreign Affairs) (subscription required)
Since Xi came to power in 2012, it has pulled off some impressive feats, among them completing a nationwide high-speed rail network, developing a commanding lead in renewable energy technologies, and building one of the world’s most advanced militaries. Yet neijuan now permeates all aspects of life in Xi’s China, leaving the country more isolated and stagnant than during any extended period since Deng launched the reform era in the late 1970s.
Beijing nabs another ‘CIA spy’ (August 22, 2023, Radio Free Asia)
The Ministry of State Security, or MSS, on Monday accused a government worker of spying for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, the second such case this month, as Beijing ramps up an anti-espionage campaign that it says every Chinese citizen should participate in.
South China Sea: Philippines resupplies Spratlys shoal troops (August 22, 2023, BBC)
The Philippines says it has delivered fresh supplies to a remote outpost it claims in the South China Sea. Manila says Beijing’s attempts to “block, harass, and interfere with the supply mission” were unsuccessful. Chinese ships fired water cannon at a Philippine supply mission to the Second Thomas Shoal in the disputed Spratly Islands two weeks before, stopping it from reaching the Filipino troops. Manila enforces its claim using a decrepit navy ship with a few troops.
Suspected Chinese dissident rides jet ski hundreds of miles to South Korea (August 23, 2023, CNN)
A jet ski rider detained by South Korea for allegedly entering the country illegally is a prominent Chinese dissident who rode hundreds of miles across the sea to escape from China, activists say. The man, who is in his 30s, was apprehended August 16 near Incheon, on South Korea’s west coast near to the capital Seoul, the Incheon Coast Guard said in a news release Sunday.
China’s Xi unexpectedly skipped a key BRICS event. No one is saying why (August 23, 2023, CNN)
Xi, who arrived in Johannesburg on Monday for the annual BRICS summit of major emerging economies, was scheduled to deliver a speech at its business forum on Tuesday alongside leaders from India, Brazil and South Africa. But the Chinese leader failed to show up at the event, with no official announcement or explanation from Beijing.
A Deserved Hearing (August 9, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
Whether the Chinese church is examined through an old China/new China, rural/urban or indigenous/missionary lens, the impact and influence of Pentecostal theology and practice cannot be ignored or extracted from its history.
Gospel Power at Work in the Heart (August 14, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
Gaining a true view of self, together with embracing a new identity, is a powerful strength-giving combination. The truth that Jesus died for us, enabling our reconciliation with God and restoring our place in his family, is the foundation of our true identity.
Why Should We Learn From Chinese Christians? (August 21, 2023, China Partnership Blog)
In recent years, a growing movement of Reformed, urban house churches have begun to articulate an important theology of ‘walking the way of the cross’ which shapes their ecclesiology, evangelism, and discipleship. As North American churches navigate the increasing pressures of a polarizing culture, there is much to learn from our brothers and sisters in China.
Alive (August 21, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
Let creation minister to us in this reciprocal relationship—being and communing with each other— so that we may worship without ceasing and love without reservation, becoming fully alive and glorifying God in full embodiment.
The Chinese Church Does Missions (1) Within China (August 23, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
In this installment of our series, we’ll be looking at the many issues facing Chinese believers as they share about Jesus with their fellow citizens as well as the creative ways they have developed to circumvent difficulties. Some of the resources will apply equally to Chinese workers ministering outside of China.
Society / Life
Xi Jinping urges speed in China’s rush to recover from devastating floods (August 18, 2023, South China Morning Post)
Close to 4 million people were affected by the consequent floods, which caused more than 30 deaths in northern China. Dozens of people are still missing. According to state-run news agency Xinhua, Xi made the remarks on Thursday, while presiding over a meeting of the Politburo’s seven-strong Standing Committee – the decision-making body’s inner circle.
China’s Xian sends ‘sweet love’ messages to encourage babymaking (August 23, 2023, Reuters)
Family planning authorities in the historic Chinese city of Xian texted residents this week wishing them “sweet love, marriage and childbirth”, and to create “good fertility”, in a new move to boost the country’s flagging birthrate. The message was reported by local media, including on the official Weibo of China Newsweek, and coincided with the Qixi festival on Aug. 22, also known as China’s Valentines Day, a traditional holiday celebrating love and romance.
Economics / Trade / Business
The Fujian Way: How One Chinese Region Became a Dominant Force in Africa (July 28, 2023, Sixth Tone)
For decades, a network of entrepreneurs from China’s rough-and-tumble southern coastline have been quietly expanding their presence in Africa. Now, they’re driving a new wave of investment on the continent.
China’s economic woes keep getting worse. Here’s why (August 16, 2023, NPR)
After three years of strict “zero-COVID” lockdowns, analysts had expected China’s economy to quickly recover this year. But recent sets of data suggest otherwise. Retail sales, industrial output and investment in July all grew at a slower-than-expected pace. In the meantime, a fall in aggregate demand has put deflationary pressure on the world’s second-largest economy.
What’s Behind the Youth Unemployment Statistics Beijing Just Decided to Stop Publishing? (August 17, 2023, China File)
Earlier this summer, ChinaFile’s Jessica Batke spoke with sociologist Eli Friedman, who studies international labor, about the reasons for joblessness among China’s young people and how it is covered.
China cuts key interest rate as recovery falters (August 21, 2023, BBC)
China’s central bank has cut one of its key interest rates for the second time in three months as the world’s second-largest economy struggles to bounce back from the pandemic. The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) lowered its one-year loan prime rate to 3.45% from 3.55%. The country’s post-Covid recovery has been hit by a property crisis, falling exports and weak consumer spending.
China’s property crisis leaves Country Garden with unpaid workers, silent sites (August 23, 2023, Reuters)
At an unfinished Country Garden (2007.HK) residential complex on the outskirts of the northern Chinese metropolis of Tianjin, construction has slowed to a dull whirr and a few idle workers roam a near-empty site. “They haven’t paid us since Chinese New Year (in January). We are all worried,” said a labourer surnamed Wang, 50, who said he had stopped work at the Yunhe Shangyuan site last week.
History / Culture
Meet the Missionaries Who Went to China (August 7, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
The story of the spread of the gospel is in large part the story of how God works through specific people to lead new believers to himself. God uses the talents and creativity of those who answer the great commission call. While cross-cultural workers continue to learn and grow in how they work in the field, it’s also important to remember those who blazed the first pathways—sometimes quite literally—and learn from both their successes and failures. For this third session of ChinaSource Summer School, we have articles, books, and even a webinar focusing on the lives and work of key figures in the mission work of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Travel / Food
Where to Eat in Shanghai (August 8, 2023, Wild China)
We asked WildChina travel designer, Isabel Wang, who spent many weekends of her youth slipping off to Shanghai to explore the city’s culinary scene while attending university in nearby Hangzhou, to share her personal list of where to eat in Shanghai, from exquisite Michelin star sit-downs to hidden linong hole-in-the-walls.
Language / Language Learning
Video: Hanzi, From Print to Screen (Sixth Tone, via YouTube)
Open your smartphone’s default Chinese-language input system and start typing. Odds are the text will display in simple, clear, somewhat blocky typeface. This is Heiti, a relatively young category of typefaces — but already the default on digital devices around the world. The tale of how that came to pass is not your typical “China story.” It involved designers, scientists, and bureaucrats from China to Japan, even Massachusetts, collaborating and competing for over a century. The result of their work is something once thought impossible: bringing Hanzi into the digital world.
Should you throw away your Chinese textbook? (August 15, 2023, Hacking Chinese)
A textbook introduces useful language in context and explains how it works. It gives you a path to follow and makes many choices for you, including ones you might not be aware of yet. Instead of spending a few months figuring out how you want to learn Chinese, a textbook allows you to get started right away and figure out the details later.
Impressions on Returning to Post-Covid China (August 11, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
With the traumatic experiences of the early covid days in China still fresh in our minds, we naturally carried a certain amount of anxiety with us as we returned. Would people be happy to see us again? What kind of welcome would we receive? Would we be ostracized, feared—or even resented? Below, and in no particular order, are some observations on conditions on the ground after a few months back in our relatively isolated city of four million.
Indignation or Creativity? (August 18, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
In terms of working overseas, how do we respond to local expectations, whether by law or by culture? One old-timer (a Bible-smuggler in his case) told me once during an interview: “There is a lot possible when we function within the law. We can still head in all kinds of directions. There are always open doors in every country no matter how ‘closed’ they are. We just have to find them.”
Christians in China, A.D. 600 to 2000 – Book Review (Revisited) (August 14, 2023, Global China Center)
This is a marvelous book, and it represents the learned Sinology of a long line of French Roman Catholic scholars, going back for hundreds of years. Though he devotes most of his attention to the story of Roman Catholicism, the author does give fair and generous summaries of important aspects of Protestantism in China.
Pray for China
August 25 (Pray for China: A Walk Through History)
On Aug. 25, 1984, Christiana Cai Sujuan (蔡苏娟姊妹) went to be with Lord. Cai wrote Queen of the Dark Chamber, a book recounting her amazing transformation from pampered daughter of a high government official in Jiangsu to nearly-blind Christian prayer warrior and ministry partner with missionary educator Mary Leaman (李曼姊妹). Cai wrote, “How can we (disabled) still be useful? Maybe you think people only pay attention to the educated – those with Ph.D.’s? Never mind. The Lord loves us. We can have a degree, too – a P.D. – a doctorate in prayer. If we will be faithful in our corner, praying for those who are on the front lines of battle, we will have a reward, too. …There is not a day that I have not prayed for China, my homeland, and the millions there who need Christ.” After leaving China, Cai and Leaman played key roles in the ministry of Ambassadors for Christ (基督使者协会-AFC). Pray for people with disabilities to see the Lord Jesus in His beauty and His kingdom that has no end. Your eyes will behold the king in his beauty; they will see a land that stretches afar. Isaiah 33:17
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Joann Pittman is Vice President of Partnership and China Engagement and editor of ZGBriefs. Prior to joining ChinaSource, Joann spent 28 years working in China, as an English teacher, language student, program director, and cross-cultural trainer for organizations and businesses engaged in China. She has also taught Chinese at the University …View Full Bio